CINCINNATI — It may have been the 89-degree heat, it may have been the smothering humidity, or, knowing those Dodgers, it may have just been the national television.
Whatever, there were several unusual sightings Saturday as the Dodgers beat the Cincinnati Reds, 10-3, a score that would probably qualify as the most unusual sighting of all. Consider:
--When is the last time you have seen 17 Dodger hits, including an infield double by Alfredo Griffin and a pinch home run by Franklin Stubbs? Against a struggling collection of Red pitchers--Tim Birtsas, Mike Griffin, Kent Tekulve--the Dodgers had their best offensive day of the season before 37,211 at Riverfront Stadium fans. This impressed nearly everybody.
"Heck, you could have gotten a hit today," Red Manager Pete Rose barked at one reporter. "We just didn't pitch good."
Added a downcast Tekulve, who has allowed 11 runs in his last seven appearances: "I always do what's best for the ballclub, and right now, pitching once a week and taking a beating is best for the ballclub."
--When is the last time you have seen Fernando Valenzuela sprinting around the bases, running nearly as fast as his fastball? In winning his fourth consecutive start after going winless for nearly a year, Valenzuela also went 2 for 2, with a double and a single, and scored two runs. After Valenzuela scored his second run, just beating a throw from center fielder Rolando Roomes, team trainer Bill Buhler spent 10 minutes fanning the pitcher with a towel.
"I think that must have given him 40, 50 extra pitches," Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said with a smile.
Valenzuela, who is 4-5 with a 4.15 earned-run average, sweated through six innings, giving up three runs on nine hits and topping it off with a prediction.
"I think maybe we (the old Dodgers) are back," he said.
--When is the last time you have seen Valenzuela relieved by Tim Belcher? Dodger management finally showed a bit of what they intend to do with their pitching logjam when starter Belcher was sent out in the seventh inning to relieve for the first time since last July 5.
At about the same time Saturday, the Dodgers announced that John Tudor, who hasn't pitched since last year's World Series, would come off the disabled list and start Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium against the San Diego Padres. They did not announce which pitcher would be shipped out to make room for Tudor, but one of the leading candidates is right-hander Tim Crews.
"I think there's more players than just me who wish they would say something," said Crews, who has no decisions and one save in 33 innings. "We're like fish in the water . . . one of us is going to get hooked."
Meanwhile, both Tudor and Belcher appear equally cautious.
Said Tudor of his rehabilitation from extensive shoulder and elbow surgery: "It's not done yet; it won't be over until I get back out there; there's nothing I can say yet."
Said Belcher: "Everybody has been smelling something coming, but I'm not so sure it's here yet. All I was told was I'm going to miss a start and pitch down in the bullpen while I'm doing it. I wasn't told it was about my performance."
However, Belcher, one of last season's top rookies, hasn't won a game since May 25, a span covering five starts during which he has a 4.17 ERA. Overall, he is 4-6 with a 3.13 ERA.
"This will be good for him," pitching coach Ron Perranoski said. "This will help him approach the hitters better."
Belcher shrugged. "I prefer to start, but I don't despise the bullpen," he said. "It's like an auto mechanic. If you can work on both foreign cars and American cars, you can get a helluva lot more business. I guess this will give me good versatility."
It has already given him a save. He allowed the Reds just two hits over the last three innings Saturday to tidy up a game that began for the Dodgers as a mess.
Birtsas, making his first start of the season while filling in for Danny Jackson, who is out with a shoulder injury, struck out four of the first five Dodgers he faced. Meanwhile, the Reds scored two first-inning runs on a two-run double by Joel Youngblood that bounced over the head of Mariano Duncan, making a rare start in right field.
But then Birtsas lost it, retiring only two more Dodgers before being relieved in the third. "Birtsas was hitting the spots for a little while," Lasorda said. "And then he just stopped."
The Dodgers scored four runs off Birtsas in the second inning, including a two-run double by Griffin on a grounder that bounced off second baseman Lenny Harris' shin and rolled into shallow left field, and RBI singles by Valenzuela and Duncan. They scored twice more in the fourth on a run-scoring fly ball by Willie Randolph and an RBI single by Kirk Gibson.
Griffin went 3 for 5 with two doubles to increase his hitting streak to nine games, in which he is hitting .457.
"This is the way a little guy like me has to hit," Griffin said.